Win or go home.
It’s that simple for the Blackhawks, who are down 3-0 in their first-round series against the top-seeded Golden Knights after a 2-1 loss in Game 3. It was the second straight game Chicago lost by one goal following a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2.
The Blackhawks will try to avoid being swept by Vegas when they play Game 4 on Sunday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Western Conference’s hub city. A sweep would mark nine consecutive playoff losses for Chicago, which lost Game 7 in the first round to the Blues in 2016 then were swept by the Predators in 2017. Also in 2017, the Golden Knights won their first playoff series in franchise history with a sweep of the Kings.
Vegas coach Pete DeBoer made a surprising move for Game 3 and started Marc-Andre Fleury over Robin Lehner for Game 3. Fleury made 26 saves in his first game since Aug. 6, a 6-4 win against St. Louis in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Lehner started Games 1 and 2, and is expected to start Game 4.
The Golden Knights were without forwards Paul Stastny and Tomas Nosek, each unfit to play. Forward Max Pacioretty, who was unfit to play in Game 2, had one shot on goal in 15:16. DeBoer said Stastny, who had a goal and an assist in Game 2, will be evaluated Sunday morning to see if he can play.
Chicago and Vegas were two of the best teams in back-to-back game situations during the regular season. The Blackhawks tied for the most back-to-back games with 14 with a sixth-best 9-4-1 record in the second half of the two-game set, while the Golden Knights were the second-best team in the second game with a 9-2 mark.
Even if the Blackhawks pull off a victory Sunday, the odds are stacked against them to win the series. Only four teams in NHL history (4-190, 2.1 percent) have overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series. The last team to do it was the 2014 Kings, who eliminated the Sharks in the first round and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks have killed off 11 consecutive penalties, including 17 of their last 19 during their last six postseason games after an 1-for-4 performance in Game 1 against Edmonton in the Qualifiers. Chicago’s 89.5 percent penalty kill percentage in that span ranks sixth among the 16 teams in the playoffs.
Playoff Kane and... Maatta
Patrick Kane assisted on Olli Maatta’s goal in Game 3 to give him a team-high eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the postseason. Kane has assisted on Chicago last four goals, including three helpers in Game 2. He’s tied with Jonathan Toews (four goals, four assists) for the most points on the team.
Maatta has scored a career-high three playoff goals and shares the NHL lead among defensemen. His five points top all Blackhawks blueliners.
More scoring production
If the Blackhawks are to force a Game 5 they’ll need more contributions on offense from their forward group. Drake Caggiula (one assist) and Alex Nylander (no points) are two players who could be needed more. Alex DeBrincat (four assists) had his best game of the series in Game 3, with 10 shot attempts (eight on goal), nine slot shots and three scoring chances off the rush in 17:53.
“I thought I had a lot of good chances,” DeBrincat said. “Just didn’t squeak through. Tomorrow’s another day and it’s going to go in tomorrow.”
The Blackhawks are putting the “post” in postseason with a NHL-high 14 shots to hit the iron. Kane had the most excruciating one in Game 3 with a shot off the post with a wide-open net for his fifth shot off the post in the postseason. If Chicago must hit the post than having them bank off the post and into the net or off another player and in would be the way to go.
You know the narrative: the Blackhawks can win if Corey Crawford is Corey Crawford. The goaltender has improved throughout the series and in games, but he has let in some uncharacteristically soft goals in the series. When he’s on, he’s one of the better goalies in the League and the Blackhawks normally feed off it.
Kubalik — Toews — Saad
Caggiula — Dach — Kane
DeBrincat — Strome — Nylander
Carpenter — Kampf — Highmore
Keith — Boqvist
De Haan — Murphy
Maatta — Koekkoek
Pacioretty — Stephenson — Stone
Marchessault — Karlsson — Smith
Cousins — Roy — Tuch
Carrier — Brown — Reaves
McNabb — Schmidt
Martinez — Theodore
Holden — Whitecloud
How to Watch
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB, Canada
TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBC Sports app